Teachings of the Bubble Shooter

Screnshot of a half-finished bubble shooter gameLife lessons can come from unexpected sources – snippets of overheard conversation in a public place, serendipitous discoveries while channel surfing, surprising insights from acquaintances who didn’t seem to be paying that much attention.

And then there’s the bubble shooter. Bubble shooters have everything I like in a game – color, shape, matching. And they avoid most of what I don’t like. Despite the shooting, nothing gets hurt. The bubbles don’t even break.

But the best thing about bubble shooters is that they cut right to core truths that should have been obvious but weren’t. Here are a few things bubble shooter games have taught me.

That deer in the headlights is me.

I wasn’t really conscious of just how disabling time pressure is to me until I started playing with bubble shooters. It stops me cold. I become flustered, make mistakes and miss opportunities. When I ended up stuck for months on levels where decisions must be made 100% swiftly and accurately to advance, I realized I hadn’t paid enough attention to the impact of time pressure on the rest of my life. I switched professions (and found some non-timed bubble shooter games).

Some things in life are harder, and that’s OK (within reason).

Check the reviews of any bubble shooter game, and you’ll find people complaining about how the bubbles don’t go where you point them. This is intentional, of course. Easy levels are fun and affirming, but if they were all easy, there would be no sense of achievement. After awhile, success without effort would become boring. On the other hand, if every level was difficult, the game would be arduous and dispiriting. I have sometimes wished for an obstacle-free “rest” life when the scales were tipped too heavily towards adversity, but I ultimately discovered I need a balance of accomplishment and challenge to be happy.

Get your priorities straight.

What bubble shooters revealed about the randomness (and ineffectiveness) of my tactics shocked me, but it did explain a lot. I have spent most of my life feeling confused about priorities. Or so I thought. Actually, my priorities were fine, I just lacked the confidence to follow through on them. I never realized how badly this messed up my life until I noticed how frequently I chose an action that would end a game instead of one that would continue it, even when I could easily predict these outcomes. This was not so much self-sabotage as cognitive dissonance between my behavior and my goals. Bubble shooters taught me to become conscious of my top priorities, and properly weight them to take precedence over everything else.

The ad-free version is worth the 99¢.

I played a favorite game for years, fuming at the distracting, annoying, and sometimes outright offensive ads, ranting about them in reviews, even downloading other apps to try and suppress them. The ad-free version was only 99¢, but I was damned if I was going to be harassed into buying something. Finally, I really looked at that decision and realized how bizarre (and more than a little control-freaky) it was to view paying a buck for something that gave me hours of pleasure as losing a power struggle.

Sooner or later you will conquer even the hardest levels.

This is the most telling lesson of all. I have been stuck for weeks or even months at the same level, playing it hundreds of times, often with steadily diminishing hope that I would ever make it through. And yet, I always did, eventually. When I learned to regard failure as an essential stage of generating new strategies, I finally found one that worked.

Overlapping circles of color against a pastel background

Life is Weird

So, after two months of no activity whatsoever in my newly chosen career, I suddenly have two clients this week, and both seem promising – that is, both will be good to work with, and need ongoing services.

This is also a week when I’m completing a project that put me in a highly stressful construction environment for the past few months. With the jackhammers shaking the building, and constant voices of workers shouting to each other over the racket day and night, I’ve felt like I was in a war zone.

It’s great to get away from that, but there are endless closing details to manage. If I could, I’d have chosen to do nothing else this week. Instead, I’m doing everything else! I wasn’t sure I could, but I am.
Busy woman at desk with 5 arms, typing, filing, and answering the phone all at the same time
And that’s a general theme of my life lately. I’m scrambling to keep up all the time. Continue reading

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

I took a hike to the top of a 6,000-foot ridge one summer. It had a great view of the 14,000-foot extinct volcano 20 miles away. Hailing from a state where the elevation tops off at 1,000 feet, experience had to teach me the counter-intuitive fact that a mountain looks bigger the higher you get.
Continue reading

Down Time Illuminated

Whether it's from being an HSP or an introvert, or both, the gigantic mismatch between the amount of down time I seem to need, and the actual time I have left after working and running a household continues to be a major issue. Continue reading

The Limitations of Being Highly Sensitive

One of the things that often shows up on lists of HSP characteristics is saying yes to things you don’t actually want to do. My theory is that we go into instant overwhelm when faced with a choice between displeasing ourselves or displeasing another person. Saying yes becomes a panic-stricken release valve to resolve the immediate stress. We feel good about ourselves, and the other person is also happy. Until we have to fulfill, or renege on, our promises, that is.

If you have a lot of trouble with this, here are a couple of videos you may find useful. The first one encourages us, among other things, to take a page from the introvert book (even if you’re an extrovert), and make our default answer “I’ll think about it,” rather than “yes.” Continue reading

Time Trials

I’m happy to report I’ve found additional work. Less happily, two months in, I’m hearing something I’ve heard too many times before: “Less depth, more speed.”
animated clock face with spinning hands
I’ll bet this is something HSP/introverts hear a lot.

I was hoping to avoid that in this job, as I’ve previously worked with my new boss, and he praised my detail-orientedness. But that was when someone else was paying for my time, and more importantly, my thoroughness – or not – had no impact on his workload.

The thing is, I can’t work more superficially. Engagement doesn’t have a volume dial for me. It’s either on or off. If I care at all about the work (which is essential), I have to give it my full attention. That’s the only kind of attention I’ve got.

Engagement isn’t the only issue. Continue reading